“The Candelora-Kelly approach would have been more prudent.”

January 29, 2021


Executive power taken to excess 


Waterbury Republican-American editorial 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont has had authority to unilaterally run the state.

Gov. Lamont’s power was scheduled to lapse Feb. 9, but the governor will retain it through April 20, the Republican-American reported Jan. 27. Connecticut law mandates that such emergency gubernatorial power be sanctioned by a select group of legislative leaders.

It was a mistake to extend Gov. Lamont’s pandemic powers for more than two months.

A shorter-term extension, which was advocated by House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford, and Senate Minority Leader Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, would have been more in keeping with Connecticut’s realities.

Gov. Lamont first assumed emergency authority in early March, when he declared public-health and civil-preparedness emergencies. The governor and the relevant legislative leaders renewed this authority in early September. Per state law, a single investment of emergency authority in the governor may last for no more than six months, the Republican-American’s Paul Hughes reported Jan. 27.

The renewal process was repeated this week.

“Lamont has used emergency powers to close some businesses, place restrictions on others, limit the size of gatherings, require masks be worn in public, close school buildings to students, mobilize the Connecticut National Guard and suspend fingerprinting for firearms permits, among other actions,” according to Mr. Hughes.

With this being so, it can be said that Gov. Lamont has been Connecticut’s most powerful chief executive in recent memory.

With the pandemic continuing to rage, few people would question the need for the governor to have some emergency authority. For instance, it can legitimately be argued that a “strong governor” is better suited to address sudden developments than the usual legislative process is.

However, it is ill-advised to get in the habit of letting the governor run Connecticut with little or no legislative input. 

After all, legislators are the direct representatives of the people. This is why we called in September for a shorter extension – to December – of Gov. Lamont’s authority, and it is why we take a similar position at present.

We believe Rep. Candelora and Sen. Kelly were on target when they recommended Gov. Lamont’s powers be extended only to March 1. Their plan called for the governor and the legislature to use the interim to “negotiate which of Lamont’s dozens of executive orders to submit to the legislature to be codified into state law,” as Mr. Hughes reported. It would have been driven by specific pandemic data.

The Candelora-Kelly approach would have been more prudent. Indeed, Rep. Candelora highlighted that the legislature now is in session and will be until early June, the (Manchester) Journal Inquirer and The Associated Press reported in a joint Jan. 27 story.

Government-by-executive-order is not a healthy or viable long-term option. 

Accordingly, when April 20 comes around, Gov. Lamont and lawmakers should think hard about whether a third renewal of emergency authority is in Connecticut’s best interests in the long run.